Mentorship Program Design – Know Before You Go

Mentorship Program Design – Know Before You Go

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Mentorship programs are great for employee retention, satisfaction, and professional growth. These programs boost sense of belonging for all of those who participate, benefitting both mentor and mentee. But as we rethink these programs within the context of DEI, it’s time to shift our focus towards sustainability– designing mentorship programs with universal buy-in and enhanced satisfaction.

So what should you consider as you plan your own initiatives? Here’s what to know before you go when considering mentorship program design or expansion.

Professional Development Outcomes

If the goals for your formal mentoring program are advancement and mobility, you should have a clear sense of how your company has focused its current or prior mentoring efforts–and the results those programs achieved. Use the following questions to guide you: 

  1. Has formal mentoring primarily targeted high-potential/key employees or has it targeted staff more broadly?
  2. Did previous efforts effectively advance employees to “steppingstone” roles in their careers (i.e., first supervisory/managerial position, first middle management position, first director-level/junior executive position, transition from field to corporate)?
  3. Has formal mentoring effectively supported employees transitioning into new roles (i.e., new employee, new manager, lateral transfer and new executive onboarding)?

Wherever possible, compare the performance and career arcs of mentored employees with their unmentored counterparts. Then compare the outcomes of diverse and non-diverse employees in each group. This type of analysis will help you assess the impact of your company’s programs on different employee groups. 

Accessibility and Participation

While gaining insight on impact gaps will provide you with a solid start, you won’t necessarily identify differences in program accessibility and participation. To go the final mile, consider the following questions:

  1. How have employees become mentees in formal programs (i.e., opt-in, lottery, application, nomination/recommendation, mandatory participation)?
  2. Have diverse employees who are eligible for formal mentoring participated at rates similar to eligible non-diverse employees?    
  3. Has your company identified any factors that might discourage or prevent employees (particularly diverse employees) from participating in formal mentoring programs (i.e., manager approval, scheduling or workload accommodation, travel or technology requirements, eligibility requirements, time commitment)?
  4. How effectively has your company promoted formal mentoring opportunities and educated employees (particularly diverse employees) about its programs?

Regardless of whether you’re looking to edit your current mentorship programming or are starting from scratch, having a clear roadmap of where your company has been will be key to your success. 

Reputation and Organizational Commitment

Stakeholder perceptions and attitudes, particularly those based on prior experience, will play an important role in the reception of your new or expanded formal mentoring program. This means that it’s extra important to understand how current and prior mentoring efforts have previously scored in terms of career impact for participants, value to the company, resourcing and quality of management, fairness, and support from superior coworkers. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  1. Have stakeholders expressed an interest in ensuring the success of any upcoming changes to or implementation of your mentorship programming?
  2. Is there widespread agreement on a core set of values that your mentorship program will bring to your company?
  3. Are there structured and resourced channels for continuous measurement and feedback?
  4. Do your stakeholders accurately understand the tradeoffs of different mentorship program structures? Are mentors invested in accounting for these tradeoffs?

When initiating and expanding on your own formal mentorship program as a way of supporting and furthering DEI objectives, carefully consider your company’s prior experience– especially as it relates to participation patterns, engagement/satisfaction and outcomes for diverse employee groups. Ideascape’s Mentorship Program (Re)Design Framework helps you manage impact and organizational stability while providing you with a solid set of do’s and don’ts so that you can get a solid head start. Schedule a call with us to receive this framework and learn more about our platform. 

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